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Human Rights and the Writer

Blog Action Day
It’s been a busy week for me already, so I’m taking some time out to reflect on a topic that affects us all: human rights. Whether we acknowledge the history that has allowed us the power to vote, associate, or stay healthy and work, and notwithstanding the comprehensive statement any participant nation in the UN has signed on to with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, too many forget that these rights exist for ALL, and have been gained at many times at terrible cost. For my story-writing self, this is rich fodder; for my friends who are still in limbo on whether their marriages will be recognized… or for women who seek equality under the law… or for victims of human trafficking who are stuck in slavery… the reality is that we have a long way to go before even the basics outlined in that document become universal in the way they were intended.

As my friend, critiquer, and fellow blogger Sabrina Garie points out in her post on the topic, our ability to expose these contradictions in our stories can help individual readers wrestle with those same issues. I suspect we all hope that our entertainment efforts plant a few seeds of consciousness in our audience so they’re not as automatically unconscious about how they treat their fellow beings. As another friend and blogger, Kasia James, points out, by listening to and understanding each others’ stories, we gain empathy and true compassion. In my experience, it’s when we truly internalize those characteristics that we not only gain tolerance, but also the strength to join the fight for those who still need our help in attaining what some few already have.

My experiences growing up around the globe have shown me that by and large, individuals are not that different. We’re all looking for satisfaction in our lives, work, and relationships. Differences of opinion and belief for the most part boil down to varying approaches to handle the same core issues: What is the meaning of our existence and how do we align ourselves in such a way as to maximize our capacity to fulfill our goals. As an Anne McCaffrey reader and Star Trek fan, internalizing the utopian view of a meritocracy where regardless of skill, basic needs are always met, has had a profound impact on my own sense of justice and equality. It is my hope that someday, some nuggets from my own stories push others in the same way.

Many bloggers are participating in today’s Blog Action Day; I encourage you to read what they have to say–and especially to visit Sabrina and Kasia.

Caveat Emptor: Worthless Sealy Warranty – Mattress Review

Sealy Posturepedic Mattress

Exhibit A for the definition of Buyer Beware

I’m not a great complainer. I tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses. So when I run up against head-scratchingly bad decisions, I generally opt to raise the conversation at the next higher point of decisionmaking. Typically, another perspective resolves the issue and either helps me understand what the problem is in my viewpoint, or changes the previous decision.

This set of guidelines has served me well in my life, and has been validated in both of the first two MBA classes I’ve taken.

In particular, when you market your product as solving customer issues (in my case, that a latex-core mattress will reduce my allergy symptoms, and mine and my husband’s back problems, that had resulted from our old mattress’ springs failing), you build up a certain level of enthusiasm and good will. When your sales people assure your customers that this is a 20-year mattress, with a 10-year warranty to stand behind its quality and worth as an investment, and that despite the fact that you will sweat more because of the nature of the latex mattress, using a standard mattress pad will protect your investment sufficiently, then please, let these words be your company’s truth. After all, this is a not-insignificant investment that should only come around once every 15 to 20 years.

We loved our mattress for 5 years. We took normal and recommended care of it. And we sweated a lot. Because of this, there are sweat stains on the mattress. Because we took seriously the “do not expose to liquid” injunction, and the “it’s fine so long as you use a mattress pad” explanation, we shrugged about the stains.

Apparently, those are now the reason Sealy does NOT stand behind its warranty.

I’ve just spent the better part of two weeks going round in circles first with the store (who sent out an inspector with complicated measuring devices and confirmed that the foam had collapsed 1.5″ on one side and 2″ on the other–far outside their warranty’s parameters) and then the Sealy home office.

Their final word:

For the reasons listed in the email above and outlined in your warranty it’s never pleasant to disappoint our consumers, however we must inform you based on the limited warranty your mattress can not be replaced. We feel the decision of your retailer, The Boston Store, was the correct decision based on the information provided.

The reason I went through the second round of information trading was because there WAS NO LIQUID SATURATION. It was sweat-stained as part of normal wear and tear, after careful protection with both high-quality mattress pads and sheets.

So I’m posting this warning to any potential Sealy customers: The company is in the business of producing a product that will seem great for a short while. Just long enough to make sure you’ve sweated enough to ensure that their warranty is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Meantime, we’re back to having back issues. Does anyone have a recommendation for a better mattress?

Teaser Tuesday: Water for Elephants

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading (she also hosts some other great memes). (And I found out about it via Cabin Goddess…) Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So. Without further ado:

I spend the night on a crumpled horse blanket against the wall, as far from the cot as I can. The blanket is damp. Whoever covered the slats when they turned this into a room did a lousy job, so the blanket’s been rained on and reeks of mildew.

This one caught my curiosity because the Hollywood machine decided to turn it into a movie: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.

Water for Elephants

The writing is evocative, but nothing like what I was expecting based on the random trailers I’d seen, so it’s been sitting on my desk for a few weeks while I try to finish editing my book to meet my deadlines… So the review is likely to be a few weeks off yet.

😉

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Me? Blog Award?! I’m a Versatile Blogger

Versatile Blogger AwardHere’s something I never would have expected: Having started this blog a year ago, flush with the amazement of having conquered my first NaNoWriMo challenge, I really only thought this blog would serve as an aide-memoire for myself, and maybe a roadmap for my friends and colleagues on the things I had been reading. I never expected to find a thriving community of other writers, let alone other writers who thought my blog was a fun place to stop by. Yet, here I am: @zencherry included me in her list and said she LIKES my reviews. Thank you so very much! 🙂 (AND…. why don’t the rules allow me to nominate you back??)

Zowie.

I was so excited I did a little happy dance–despite being up to my eyeballs in life and my second NaNoWriMo challenge. So it’s taken me quite a few days to formulate a response and keep the chain going…

😉

Thar Be Rules In These Waters:

Thank the person who nominated you (see above <G>). Tell 7 things about yourself so that your readers may learn more about you. Nominate 15 other newly discovered bloggers then let them know you nominated them.

And I’m incorporating Maureen’s rule addendum, too, since I’ve generally poo-poohed chain letters myself:

Well, hey. Just so you know, I’ve always been a stopper of chain letters and such so the winners have NO obligation to pass this on whatsoever if they don’t want to and I’ll take the hooey for it. It’s my award to give out and I’m a gonna make up MY rule. How’s that? Of course, if you want to pass it out, feel free, but not under any circumstance, are you obligated. (Nods and crosses arms) Okay. Onwards.

hmmm Seven Things

  1. I’ve lived on four of the seven continents.
  2. As a corollary to #1, the longest I’ve lived anywhere is six years, but we just busted past that this summer, here, and don’t appear to be in any hurry to move on, so each day is a new record for longevity living in one place for me.
  3. My father decided to divorce my mother after 42 years of marriage this past March with little explanation and no effort at reconciliation, insisted there was nobody else for him, and last weekend announced he will be remarrying in April. Family stuff has thus been a bit of a distraction for me lately.
  4. I’ve had the joy of living with four Siberian Huskies in the years since my marriage in 1998. Two are no longer living.
  5. I reread Anne McCaffrey‘s Dragon Riders of Pern series (all of them) at least once every two years. They *are* my happy place.
  6. I named this blog “A Book A Day” because when there are no other distractions, I can pick up a regular-sized novel after work and finish it in time for bed.
  7. If I pick up a book too late at night, though, I’m unlikely to put it down before I’m finished, so my book addiction has repeatedly led to some very sleepy day-afters.

So… my nominees (in no particular order)

1. AnnarchyAnn Handley is the Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, the professional organization I follow most closely, but her personal writings, while irregular (and, lately, rare) move me immensely.

2. All About Writing – I found Nicole Humphrey Cook via her recent post on different types of Nanoers and stuck around when I discovered she shares some really useful writer’s tips (and is as addicted to Twitter as I am).

3. Lynette LabelleLynnette Labelle is another one who shares seriously useful writer’s tips.

4. Quills and ZebrasA.M. Harte runs a whole host of writerly blogs; this one does reviews and interviews and generally supports the Indy publishing industry the best way it can.

5. Origami UnicornCatherine Mintz is another author I’ve interviewed here, whose blog is a quirky collection of useful and interesting links and includes some links to her own work.

6. Smart Bitches Trashy Books – Someone posted  a review from these gals that was not only useful and insightful, but covers that whole guilty pleasure genre of books I’ve always called brain candy for myself. 😉 (And now they’re getting a new website too, so they’ll have some more bling to share with their readers after the reboot!)

7. The Daily Blog – I met Erica Lucke Dean recently through my participation in Triberr and found a woman with a deep sense of humor who doesn’t shy away from sharing some of the bumps in the road of life.

8. The Writing Life of LJ Quillyn – Here’s another Nanoer with a unique perspective and interesting posts on how life can get in the way of what you really want, but doesn’t need to stop you.

9. Women’s Literary Cafe – This is something totally new to me: A consortium devoted to supporting authors in their quest to find readers. What a kewl idea, that totally deserves kudos.

10. Mystery Writing is MurderElizabeth Spann Craig‘s daily efforts at collecting writing tips and contributing them to a Writer’s Knowledge Base is beyond admirable, and fully worthy of many rounds of applause; she really knows how to pay it forward to other writers.

11. Feral Intensity – The writer/publisher who started me down this road more than two years ago now: Gayla, stand up and take a bow, I wouldn’t have done this without you.

12. Ramblings,Reviews and Interviews – I found Peter Hobbs via Maureen (aka @zencherry, from above) and laughed my way through “I want my 2-ply” then discovered he does the same sort of stuff I do: Reviews, Interviews, and the occasional post about life. How could I not keep coming back?

13. The Bookshelf Muse – Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman have pulled together an extensive collection of prompts and other thoughts for writers. The first one I saw greeted me with a picture of Han Solo, and I was instantly smitten. 😉

14. Writing on Writing: Amlokiblogs – I just discovered Damyanti G this week on Twitter via her extremely polite and sensible post on writer no-nos and then discovered a whole other world of enjoyable resources for writers.

15. Kait Nolan – You may remember her from the author interview I did a while back (or my review of her book Red), but she’s definitely someone I enjoy following, both for her gluten-free (and general gourmand cooking) as well as for another perspective on an author who has to work out the balance between a day job and the joy of writing.

And now it’s back to trying to catch up with my own Nanowrimo word count. Wish me luck!

And Justice for Some

For those of you who have followed me for a while, you already know that while my husband and I were enjoying ourselves at his niece’s wedding in August, we decided to take a romantic, moonlit walk together… where my husband fell into a 10′ bunker while we were in sight of a well-lit party tent and snapped his radius. Not only did he break off the head of the bone, the bone was in multiple pieces, and had to be realigned and held in place with the help of surgery and three 3″ pins. I was very lucky he didn’t break his neck, and still count my blessings about that.

Since he is a Doctor of Oriental medicine, he has managed to shock the orthopedic surgeon who put his wrist back together with his accelerated healing–his cast came off a full 4-6 weeks ahead of the date the surgeon originally outlined for us. And we were lucky enough that insurance from my job had finally kicked in 8/1, so the accident was covered (albeit with a massive deductible to meet, first). We thought that since we were guests to a place regularly rented for these types of events (where they add to their risk by serving alcohol), that maybe their owner or liability insurance would help cover some of the ridiculous medical bills that have started rolling in.

Silly, naive people we are, we approached Whistling Straits directly, since it seemed a straightforward proposition: We were your guests, you didn’t post signs or otherwise indicate the imminent danger lurking 30 feet from the venue, and one of us was injured because of that negligence. We were duly deposed. And waited. Two months later, their investigator sent us a letter denying any responsibility… because that area wasn’t lit.

Seriously…?!

Whistling Straits bunkers--very close to "the barn"In talking about this with a colleague, who turns out to have parents who volunteer for the PGA, he said they had received notification advising them to arrive in cleats because of the rugged terrain. Even the surgeon said my husband was not the first to have seriously injured himself at that venue. However, neither of us golfs–or is even remotely interested in golf… so how were we to have known of this man-trap reputation. If you look at the picture, you’ll even see they build their grandstands OVER the bunker into which my husband tumbled, to keep PGA visitors out of harm’s way–and that those bunkers are immediately adjacent to the buildings they rent out for things like… oh… say… A Wedding!

Having been backed into a legalistic corner we hadn’t anticipated by the investigator’s letter, we decided to talk to a lawyer highly recommended by one of my husband’s patients (who is, herself an assistant DA, so should know what she’s talking about…). He did some legwork for us, and this week came back with more disheartening news: The case is prima facie great. BUT… It would be against the Kohler Corporation, which has an entire legal division at its disposal, so could squash our single lawyer with paperwork and motions and whatever other legal mumbo-jumbo they decided to throw at us. So he couldn’t take on a case that was likely to end up with a much higher time investment than his small business could afford.

Which leaves me… pissed. If we were a corporation with nearly unlimited resources, this would have been resolved with a small chat between colleagues. Since we’re nobodies with mortgages, student loans, and all the other things the 99% are burdened with, we have to be OK with the fact that a corporation can decide at its whim that it wouldn’t want to set a precedent about covering an injury incurred on their property through their decision not to warn first-time visitors of the hazards close by. I have no idea what to do about this other than share a rant with the general Internet population… with the hashtag my brother-in-law suggested: #justiceforjingo.

What do you think? Is this unreasonable?

Expect the Unexpected

busted wrist It’s been almost exactly a week now since an eventful family celebration culminated in tragedy: My husband snapped his radius at the Whispering Straits PGA golf course as we took a breather from his niece’s wedding celebration.

It’s one of those experiences that’s scary while it’s happening and silly in the retelling: He was walking about 10 feet in front of me, as I picked my way through shadowed lawn in high heels. We were aiming for a graveled path that shone in the light of the full moon, when Joe walked into some taller grass that ended up concealing a bunker. He completely disappeared from sight, and the next thing I hear is shouted curses. I tried to light his way back up with the light of my cell phone, but couldn’t tell where or why he had disappeared, so didn’t trust myself to get any closer. When he finally scrambled out of the hazard, the first words out of his mouth were “I broke my wrist. Let’s get home to take care of it.”

Of course, he’s a doctor of Oriental Medicine, so I knew he had liniments that would help… but figured it would be a better idea to have an orthopedic doctor look at it and fix it. As a delaying tactic, I told him I’d get some ice from the event staff. They took the decision out of our hands by calling their first responder and an ambulance.

As it turned out, the Sheboygan Aurora hospital they took him to proudly proclaimed that they had just completed their third year as a top-100 hospital. And, unusually enough, had FIVE orthopedic surgeons on staff, so would be able to operate first thing in the morning. For the several shots of painkiller they gave him, though, Joe still spent the night in such unbearable pain he really didn’t get much sleep.

Meantime, I had had to drive my mother-in-law and brother-in-law home, and get home to take care of our doggies. I spent a lot of the night thereafter on the phone with Joe to try to distract him from the pain, and then drove back up to be with him once he was out of surgery–which, according to the surgeon was very straightforward, and just involved re-placing the bone in its correct alignment, and inserting two screws that could be accessed externally. They then wrapped the whole thing in a splint, and told us to schedule a follow-up visit in two weeks to get the screws out and put the arm in a cast.

We finally got home about 3:30 in the afternoon, after the nurses had confirmed that he could undertake a specific series of bodily functions and discharged us to go looking for a pharmacy where we could pick up a supply of Vicodin to get him through the initial pain of healing the trauma.

All of this has meant we’ve both been operating on a pretty serious sleep deficit all week–and Joe spent half the week in a drugged haze… still in pain. Luckily for us, we have other options, and I bless the Chinese herbal formulas that allowed him to stop taking narcotics on Wednesday. A week into the adventure, and he’s able to find comfortable positions for his arm on a regular and reliable basis, and we actually took a short walk together this afternoon.

So my reading time has been pretty strictly curtailed this week–and will likely remain at a lower level for a few weeks as I spend my free time making sure Joe’s needs are met while he’s down an arm… Though I suspect a little escapism will be necessary as time goes on.

😉

Kicking Things Off

I’ve avoided this for several years now, but am finally giving in to my love of the written word to begin blogging in my own right. I know most people don’t have the time to add yet another source of information to their already overloaded plates, so I plan on keeping this short and to-the-point.

I’m actually starting this because of my experience with National Novel Writing Month: I’ve had story ideas floating around in my brain for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never thought of them as such until I read an interview with Stephenie Meyer in which she said that the seminal scene that started that whole series was based on a dream she had. All of a sudden it clicked: I dream vividly! I can do that!

Actually getting to 50,000 words in one month, though… that is a challenge. It takes commitment and perseverance. I’m still not sure I have enough of what it takes–though I’m feeling confident after a 5,000+-word day–but I’m hopeful that in a few days I’ll get to post the winner’s badge here. In a related recommendation: I was able to achieve today’s word total in part because of the useful service available at http://www.mywritingnook.com/. I have the iPhone app installed (yeah, I spent the $3), so have written alternately on my desktop computer, my laptop, and my phone, as the mood has hit me to change venues.

Until then, wish me luck.

🙂

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